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Flannery Currin Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Currin portrait and GRFP logo

First-year PhD student Flannery Currin — advised by Juan Pablo Hourcade and Kyle Rector — was recently awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP), one of the more prestigious national grad student fellowships. She is one of only three current University of Iowa graduate students receiving this year's award which "recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions."

This honor will support her studies at Iowa as well as her research, including her proposed GRFP project entitled "Design for Executive Function in Young Children with Intellectual Disabilities."

Ms. Currin was kind enough to answer a few questions about her NSF GRFP proposal.

Could you please let us know what your proposal entails?

My proposal has two major goals: 1.) to identify gaps in support for children with intellectual disabilities participating in activities designed to improve executive function skills and develop a novel technology to address these gaps and 2.)  to assess the potential benefits of using that technology with groups of children with mixed abilities for developing executive function skills in children with intellectual disabilities and supporting inclusive play. This plan would involve iterating on the design of the system over the course of a few months working with a small group of children with intellectual disabilities, conducting a field study with a few groups of children to begin assessing the system's effectiveness, and eventually making the system available to educators as part of a remote evaluation study.

How do you expect this award will support your studies and overall research?

I am incredibly excited about the academic and professional development resources that I will have available to me as a GRFP Fellow, many of which I am still just learning about. I am also grateful for the direct support it will provide for me to focus on this research project about which I am very passionate.

How has your experience at Iowa been so far -- including research, courses, and other outside-the-department experiences?

My experience at Iowa so far has been very positive! Coming from a small liberal arts college, I have definitely been excited about the variety of courses available at Iowa. I have been lucky enough so far to take courses that faculty seem very invested in. My co-advisers ramped me up pretty quickly, so I have been able to be pretty involved in research already.  We are having to shift gears a bit given the current situation, but we are taking this time to work on preparing our materials so we could potentially deploy the system we have for a remote evaluation. Last semester I worked with 6 co-TAs which helped me form relationships with a number of graduate students within the department but outside of my lab. And my best friend from fourth grade through high school is actually getting her MFA in Literary Translation here which has given us a chance to reconnect, so that has been a nice coincidence!

"Fellows share in the prestige and opportunities that become available when they are selected. Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose. [...] Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, Google founder, Sergey Brin and Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt."